Once while on holiday at my parents’ cabin, my wife and I stumbled across a plant in the forest we didn’t recognize. It was a smallish scrub with an evergreen look about it, perhaps shin height, but what caught our eyes was a single peculiar berry sprouting from the top of the it. The seed was actually outside the berry, nestled in a little circular cleft. Equal part wariness and curiosity, we shared the single berry together and discarded the seed.
Upon returning to the cabin, we looked up our peculiar flora find in a handy guide. Going by foliage gave no insight, but the distinctive fruit gave it away. It was juvenile yew tree. The berry, though not terribly palatable, was sometimes consumed in small quantities by Indigenous people. It was relief that we had cast it aside that we read the seeds are highly toxic and consuming two or three can cause sever gastro-intestinal discomfort.
But it turns out fruit not only gives away scrubs, it does the same for false prophets.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
George MacDonald is quote to say, “I never trust a man’s theology until I see how he plays with children.” Does our theology evoke a sense of wonder at the world of God’s creation? Does it call forth joy and delight in his children? Are we better people for all our study of God’s Word?
This is one of the key aspects of why I find it so critical to have an intergenerational church family. Then one can hear what an older believer thinks and see what fruit it has produced in their lives. Has it made them more generous? Self-controlled? Loving? These are not just ‘feel good’ emotions, they are the mark of the Spirit at work in someone’s life. If our teaching does not lead us to greater submission to the Holy Spirit, we are doing something wrong.
We can get into danger here though. One can become so critical, so much a fruit-examiner, that pride and hypocrisy take over. We are naturally imperfect people and there is grace for that too. But let us not be led astray from the clear teachings of Christ by someone who fails to live the life of Christ as well.
Lord, help me cling to what is good and reject what is bad.